Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Contest & A Giveaway!

The holiday season isn't just about presents... it's about family and togetherness.  If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that I had my own family reunion with my biological family at the age of 30.  So, I'd like to tell you about the "Run And Hug" contest from and WhitePages.

This contest runs from November 21 to December 21 and the winner receives two all expense paid trips to reunite with a long lost family member, plus $1,000 spending money.  Second and third place winners also receive cash prizes.  (See below for details).

In addition to this, my BLOG will be hosting a giveaway for a $25 gift certificate to (also provided by WhitePages and to one of the readers to help make your holiday shopping a little easier!!!   


For many, the holiday season means reuniting with family members near and far. But what about those family members that you have lost touch with or didn’t even know existed. From now until December 19th, and WhitePages want to hear your favorite memory about your long lost relative, whether it’s of your Uncle George, your Cousin Patty or your brother Will.

If your story receives the most votes, you and a companion will win two all expenses paid trips to reunite during the holiday season. You will also be given $1,000 in cash to make your trip all that more special. Cash prizes of $500 and $200 will also be awarded to the runner-up and second runner-up. All top ten contestants will receive year-long subscriptions to to further explore their family history.

How it Works:

In order to qualify for the Run & Hug contest, participants (18 years and older) need to submit a 500 or less word or video testimonial that describes your favorite memory of a long lost relative with whom you would like to be reunited. If you are not submitting a video, please submit an image that best illustrates your story (a photo of your relative, or of you at the time when your memory took place, your family crest, etc.).  Submit your entries here:

Once a story is submitted and approved, it will then be open for the public to vote on. Contestants are encouraged to share their story with friends via email, Facebook and Twitter. The story that receives the most votes will win the reunion. Stories can be submitted anywhere from November 21st to December 21st, at which time voting will end. The winner will be chosen and notified by December 25th and will be announced to the public sometime in January. The reunion will take place sometime over the next year. See official contest rules here:
Share your memory early to maximize your chances of winning!

The Prize

The contestant whose story wins will receive two all expenses paid trips to reunite during the holiday season and will also be given $1,000 in cash. Cash prizes of $500 and $200 will be awarded to the runner-up and second runner-up. All top ten contestants will receive year-long subscriptions to to further explore their family history.

About WhitePages & Archives & Disclaimers (also known as... the fine print):

WhitePages is the leading provider of contact information for people and businesses in the U.S. A top 50 website, with over 30 million unique monthly users and powering over 2 billion searches on over 1,500 sites including MSN and the United States Postal Service, WhitePages offers consumers one-click access to more than 200 million adults, or over 90% of the adult population. The company’s suite of mobile products includes a top-50 mobile website and popular iPhone, Android, HP webOS and BlackBerry applications that have been downloaded more than 11 million times.

WhitePages owns and operates the popular web properties, and

About Archives is a leading family history website that makes discovering family history simple and affordable. The company has assembled more than 1.5 billion historical records in a single location, and makes them available at a price that's up to 80 percent less than the leading competitor. Archives also partners with other leading family history websites to provide integrated record collections, discounted memberships, official certificates and other special promotions. is free to try for seven days, allowing anyone to explore the benefits of membership without risk or obligation. is owned and operated by Inflection, a fast-growing data commerce company.

Disclaimer:  This contest is not hosted by Lil Family Blog nor will the winners be chosen by Lil Family Blog.  For specific questions about the contest, rules, or prizes, please visit the Run And Hug website:  and contact them directly!

The Blog $25 Giveaway

One Lil Family Blog reader will receive a $25 gift certificate to to help make your holiday shopping a little easier.

Mandatory Entry:
You must be a public follower of my blog either via Google reader/friend connect or Networked blogs. Leave a comment HERE and tell me how you discovered the blog and your favorite holiday tradition!  Don't forget to include your name/email so I can contact the winner!

Additional Entries (all worth one unless otherwise specified) Please leave SEPARATE comments for each entry you are entitled to:
* Like Lil Family Blog on Facebook
* Click on both the "Top Mommy" brown button and "Picket Fence" buttons on the right of my page to vote for Lil Family Blog on both sites. (worth 1 total entry)

* Add one of my buttons to your site (again, on the right of my page, copy the text below the button and then paste it onto the sidebar of your blog). Worth 2 entries.
* Post about this giveaway on your blog or site and leave me a link where I can see it.
* Share this contest on
Facebook. (Can be done easily with the little "F" icon on the bottom of this entry near the comments). 
* Add me to your
blogroll/blog list on your site.
* You get one additional entry for every friend/family member you get to enter (they have to leave an extra comment saying who sent them).

This contest will end on December 11, 2011 at 11:59PM EST, no more entries will be accepted after that time. The winners will be chosen at random and announced within a day or two on the blog. The prize will be emailed directly from the sponsor companies to the winner within a reasonable amount of time. Please see my disclosure link on the top of the page for fine print.

Thanks for reading and good luck to everyone!!!  
If you enter the Run & Hug contest, please comment here and leave me a link to it, I'd love to read your story!

EDITED TO ADD: The winner has been chosen and announced HERE!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Biter Strikes Again

Last week we got an incident report from Lily's school (her second one, her first was she got a bump on her forehead after bumping heads with someone in the bouncy castle), she was bitten by another kid.  (I will call this kid "The Biter" to protect her/his privacy).  The report was worded to share blame and said something along the lines of "Lily was being irritating to another student and the student bit her hand. Skin wasn't broken. Washed with soap and water and iced." The teacher handed it to me personally last week and gave me the explanation that Lily was pulling on The Biter's jacket and The Biter bit her hand.  Lily told me that The Biter was chasing her (sounds like they were being mutually irritating, i mean, aren't all 2 and 3 year olds irritating?) and she later told us The Biter [she used the name] is a Jerk!... which made us giggle.  I wasnt too upset about it, kids are kids and whatever.  But Lily didnt let it go.  That night she told her grandma and aunt that The Biter bit her, and she couldnt understand why she/he would do that.  She said her hand hurt for days (though there wasnt much of a mark) and when we went on vacation for 4 days for Thanksgiving, she told her dad and our other friend all about it.  She was really upset about it, she couldnt let it go.  We explained that The Biter made a mistake and she had to give her/him another chance, etc. and not to say "jerk" to her/his face, that wouldnt be nice.

So Monday comes and Missy went in to pick Lily up (i waited in the car) and one of the teachers gave her another paper and said that Lily was bitten again, by the same student.  Lily came running up holding her hand out with two red welts on it.  Again, the form shared blame and said that Lily took The Biter's toy and so The Biter bit her. But in speaking to the teacher and the front desk person, the story we got was that they were in the sandbox outside and The Biter put down a shovel for a second and Lily picked it up... but The Biter wasn't done with it and just bit her hand immediately... there was no altercation or fight or words... just the instinct to bite first.

Missy explained it to me in the car, but i decided to go back in and talk with the administrator.  I told her i wanted to understand what was going on.  Is Lily being SO obnoxious that this kid loses her/his mind?  She assured me that Lily did nothing wrong (and even if she did, biting isn't the answer) and that The Biter has the problem. I asked if they were sending letters home to The Biter's family (mine were accident reports because of the injury) and she assured me with an "oohhhh yeah" they were sending home letters and calling the parents in.  The school and the forms dont actually name the child by name, but Lily told us The Biter's name.  And i asked if anyone else was getting bitten, or is Lily somehoe targeted and/or unable to get along with this one kid?  And she told me... ALL the kids have been bitten.  While that makes me feel better on one hand (that it isnt anything to do with Lil specifically and she's not being singled out), it also disturbs me a little since there are a dozen kids in class - does that mean she/he has had 13+ biting incidents and still nothing has changed?  She told me that if The Biter keeps it up, she/he may not be allowed to come to school anymore.  And she said that they can't really prevent it, because The Biter bites with almost no provocation, there is no warning, no fight to break up, no yelling first... it just happens so fast.

I'm not sure what the solution is, but I worry about Lily - not so much the physical aspect of it, but emotionally.  I dont want her to be afraid to go to school, she loves school so much.  And i don't want The Biter provoking her to act out back, she's normally a really well behaved and timid girl - i don't want her to think violence is OK and to learn to bite/hit back.  But i also don't want her to feel like a target or a victim, this is bullying at it's earliest stage.  We're teaching her to tell him "that hurts, i don't like that" and to choose not to play with/near him if she doesnt want to, but kids are pretty unpredictable.  I also hope that The Biter's parents are taking this seriously... i have no idea what the child is like other than this, but it's totally unfair to the rest of the class.  I also imagine it's disruptive.  Lily cries every time... i imagine a teacher has to hug her and get her ice, etc.  So is that 15-25 minutes where one teacher is focussed on calming down ONE child and leaving the other to deal with nine other kids? And who is disiplining The Biter during this time?  Lily is only there for 4 hours - so is 1/8 of the day spent dealing with biting and it's aftermath?  Certainly unfair.

I don't know how the school will handle it, and i'm not the kind of person that will make any sort of demands... but i hope this stops.  Today.

Anyone else deal with anything like this in school?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I'm Thankful For... (A List)

Things i'm Thankful for... 2011
(In no particular order)

* diet Coke
* Farmville
* photography and the ability to freeze moments in time
* salad
* modern medicine
* my beautiful house (and my nutty landladies)
* my new-to-me car (especially after the past 2 years i had with my last car that fell apart on me, then caught on fire)
* Smart Dogs and Morningstar veggie burgers
* my daughter, Lilian, i made her myself.
* the fact that i MADE a human. After all this time, it doesnt get any less awesome.
* Books. And authors. And my Kindle to read them on.
* my parents who made me as awesome as i am.
* Nap blankets from Brookstone, our family has many... and they feel like we're sleeping on clouds.
* Friends. Specifically Ashley, Val, Lizzie, Mary, Christine & Linda.
* Pumpkin flavored/scented anything.
* Autumn. Leaves and smells and colors and weather.
* my wife: who has endless patience, limitless love, and bakes the best cupcakes this side of the galaxy.
* Lily's school & teachers who have brought her out of her shell and have her loving learning.
* Iacono Farm: where i can buy my eggs cruelty free, and even meet the chickens.
* my job - almost 1 year. And my boss for being more than just a boss, also a friend. And Baby V for taking it easy on me (most days).
* King Kullen for double coupon days... just kidding... or not.
* my brother, Jared, for his unconditional love despite our differences. And his wife, Bee, too for being so sweet and making him happy.
* Amish people and their delicious, delicious jams and pickles.
* Horses - they're kind of scary but make my daughter infinitly happy.
* my mother-in-law, who despite driving me crazy, loves Lily to death and is always there for us.
* Living near the beach, and the perfect summer we spent at Fresh Pond.
* the cutest white chihuahuas to ever live: specifically Ruby - the half human talking dog, and Oliver, the most loyal mushbucket in the world.
* the "Starbucks incident" for giving us the opportunity to speak out and do the right thing
* Lilian's dad, B.  Who went from being our best friend, to family and giving us the greatest gift possible.
* Green tea flavored ice cream
* okra (i rediscovered it this year)
* comfortable shoes
* comfortable bras!
* DVR and OnDemand TV
* New York State legalizing gay marriage.  6 down, 44+ to go.
* my internet friends, many whom i've never met, but have "known" longer than a lot of real life friends.
* juice boxes
* air conditioning
* The Situation (the turtle, not the guy) and his wife
* my grandparents, who for the first Thanksgiving are both gone, but are with me in every decision and action i make.
* the sisterhood of my August '08 Moms Group who have provided me answers, advice, and friendship.
* my travelling pants (ok, i dont have those)... but i do have a Fanta shirt!  My Fanta shirt!
* old friends i never get to see, but thanks to Facebook i dont lose touch with: Jaime and Christiaan
* my (reasonably) good health
* my parents' second spouses... who make them a lot happier than they seem to have made each other.
* roadtrips & hotel beds
* soup in a can
* massages & pedicures
* my large basement for storage... that does NOT leak or floor or mold
* lily. Not only am i thankful FOR her, but also TO her for reminding me to laugh, love, and live.
* Blogs. And the people that read them.
* Christmas decorations
* deer. And that i live somewhere where i can see them daily.
* Apple and their marvelous products
* digital cameras
* Our favorite restaurants: Bay Burger, Panera, Townline BBQ, Parto's
* sunsets
* Spock (our 1 and a half year old Beta fish who was Lily's 2nd birthday present)
* mustard
* all my family, past, present and Future.

I'm sure there's more... things I missed... and things that will come to me in the next 36 hours.  But i consider myself to be so lucky, that the list of things i'm thankful for is essentially neverending.  And whereas the whole concept of eating turkey is kinda gross and hokey to me, a day of remembering exactly what makes life great, is a really really good thing.  This past year has been a really good one, and i am looking forward to topping it next year.

Happy Thanksgiving

We haven't had a Thanksgiving at home since 2008 (when Lily was so tiny we set her bouncer in the center of the table like a centerpiece.)  We spent 2009 in Lancaster, and had dinner at our friend, Christine's older sister's house.  2010 was just a few weeks after we moved, and we spent it at Missy's longtime BFF's parent's house.  And this year... we decided to again do without the expense/hassle/clean-up of an at home Thanksgiving and go away.  So we'll be having Thanksgiving with the Amish... dinner in a restaurant, swimming in a hotel pool, and Lily will ride ponies: with my 3 favorite people in the world.  It sounds like a perfect holiday to me.

I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. 

My... "thankful" post will be seperate, I have a lot to be thankful this year.

What are YOU doing for Thanksgiving? Have any awesome traditions? What are you specifically thankful for this year?

Here is my Little Turkey (Lilian) in 2009.  Man, I wish that turkey suit still fit!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pre-School Class Photo

We got Lilian's first school photo back and I am SO excited!  It's just so cute!  She looks a little shy in it... but, well... she is, so it makes sense!   (we didn't get to choose background or props or anything).
I just wanted to share the cuteness.  We got a group photo too and is doing something kind of weird with her lip, but also cute.

Lilian's 1st School Photo - age 3
  I love my Peanut!

P.S. - See the ad below this post - and one over on the right?  If they interest you, please click!  The sponsers like it... and your one click seriously makes a difference to me.  So every time you read, if you see an ad you like, Please give me one click?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Shameless BRAGGING

On Friday we had Lilian's first parent/teacher conference.  This is her first year of pre-school... and so our first conference.  To be honest, i wasn't all that nervous. I feel like at drop-off and pick-up you can get a good sense of the teacher's feelings about the child, and that i wouldn't be in for any surprises.
The general consensus and the first thing her teacher said was, "we love Lily."  They gave us a checklist type sheet and she had "yes" and smiley faces and even a few "yes!!!!" down the lines. (Except for a few n/a for things they weren't expected to be doing or didn't learn yet, like scissors, tying shoes, reading, etc.)  She can count to 10 always, to 20 most of the time.  She can recognize most letters, and definitely all the ones they've learned (they "study" one letter a week), she knows the words and melodies to all the songs they sing, speaks in full sentences (this is one of the "yes!!!!!" ones), she follows directions, completes all her art projects the way she should, etc.  A significant amount of the class is in diapers (at least 50% it seems, this is a new pre-school, details later, but for now, all ages are combined), but she's the only potty trained one to use the bathroom unassisted (which she does NOT do at home for me, that little sneak).  She puts her own jacket on at playtime just needs help starting the zipper.  The teacher told us she was extremely intelligent.  I asked how she compared to the rest of the class, and she said well if they're "here" (and she held her hand up to her chest) than Lily is "heeeeeere" and made a soaring motion over her head.  Several times during the talk, she complimented our parenting and said she could tell we were excellent moms.  Whereas i totally agree, LOL, it's awesome to hear it from someone who only knows Lily, not us.
She said that Lily is extremely creative, that she can keep them entertained by telling them stories about what's going on, what her toys are doing, what's going on in pictures, etc.  She has an extremely vivid imagination and she is often lost in thought.  Ive had concerns about her attention span because she won't draw/color.  She'll hold a crayon for about 20 seconds and scribble before she gets bored or requests that the adults draw her fantasy pictures for her (which often involve horses, reindeer, farms, daddy riding horses, or daddy Batman riding a horse).  The teacher said that was totally normal at this age, that what is in her head doesnt come out on the paper, so she just doesnt bother.  She does, though, enjoy crafts like gluing, painting, collage, etc.  I guess where the final result is more obvious/pre-determined.  She has a little bit of a perfectionist streak in her.  So do all 3 of her parents.  :)
She said that she used to cry if she didn't like something (a kid taking her toy, pushing her, etc.) but she has been taught to tell them "i dont like that" and if after a few times, it's not effective, she tells the teacher "Michael took my toy and won't give it back" and the teacher responds with "let's go ask him again" and Lily has to tell him again with the teacher backing her up.  The teacher said she believes in kids learning to be independant and standing up for themselves in that way.  She no longer cries and can handle these issues on her own.
They say she's funny.  She tells jokes and she loves to laugh.  She's also very dramatic: ocasionally taking a bow when praised or saying "ta daaaaa" when completing something.
Unsurprisingly to me, we were told that she almost exclusively plays with the boys.  The girls can be more timid when it comes to the playground, etc. but Lily is mostly fearless and can keep up with the boys.  Inside, she prefers to play with the animals/barn, cars, train set, dinosaurs, puzzles and books etc and has little to no interest in the dolls, dress up stuff or play kitchen, so again, she ends up mostly playing with (or beside) the little boys.  When i pick her up, i've never seen her with a girl, only with little boys.  She's not a tomboy, she loves pink and sparkly and ponies and perfume - but somehow, it makes sense just based on her interests.  When we arrive or leave everyday, she has at least one little boy waving hello/goodbye to her and calling out hi/bye Lily!
The most important thing to hear though, is that she's extremely compassionate & sweet.  I see this in her at home too, but that she displays this in public is one of the greatest things a mom can hear.  If she sees two other kids not getting along, she'll tell the teacher "Brian took Billy's toy and won't give it back".  I laughed and said "so she's a tattle tale." And the teacher assured me it wasn't.  She wasn't intending to get anyone in trouble, she just wanted to get backup for the sad kid without his toy.  She'll often inform them that a kid needs help. And she is likely to be helping someone do a puzzle correctly (she LOVES puzzles and is extremely awesome at them.)  I pray that this doesnt turn into a busybody tendancy, but for now it's extremely sweet.  When i dropped her off the other day, one little boy was crying on the rug (in a corner marked "dramatic play" which made it hilarious), and when we came in the classroom, she dropped her backpack, ran over and crouched over him and was asking "are you ok? What's wrong?" She didnt even bother saying goodbye to me.  That was one of those moments in life where i knew i was doing something right.
When she first started school, she was extremely shy.  For almost 2 weeks, she barely spoke and kinda kept to herself.  The teachers didnt even know she COULD talk and soon she was telling them stories.  And such a short time later, she's the most advanced kid in the class that has all the teacher's laughing.  She's popular amongst the other kids and comes home "teaching" me things.  She really came out of her shell, and that's probably the best thing she's gotten out of school.
I prompted the teacher to tell me the bad stuff... the criticisms and the could-be-improved stuff... and she swore there weren't any.  She said she had to tell some other parents to stop babying their kids - that at age 3, they needed some independence and to be spoken to like a child, not a baby.  She said that Lilian can be spoken to like an adult, she can be reasoned with, and never has to be asked twice to do something.  I told her Lily can be stubborn at home and has her bratty moments, and she said that part of her doesnt exist at school.  (Awesome, she saves it all for me.)
I always knew Lilian was awesome, but hearing that she's not only awesome, but also compassionate, popular, and above average from a teacher, was just one of the best things a parent can experience.
The facility where she goes to school is new... and beautiful.  The entire center has teen/kid programs - so there are dance/yoga studios, kitchen (like home ec rooms with multiple kitchens in one room), party rooms, outdoor pool, arcade, bouncy castle, playground, etc. on two floors.  The building has been there for a few years, but pre-school didnt happen last year due to not enough sign-ups and the state licensing didn't come through on time.  I didnt know any of this when i signed her up, but i doubt it would have changed my mind.  I had no personal/friend reviews for it (any local people we knew had recommendations for other schools and sent their kids to other schools, i was even told by one "no one sends their kids to pre-school there) so finding out that Lily is in the First class makes sense!  In January they are taking on more students and a bunch that are 18 months-2 years so they are splitting the class in two and she'll be in the 3-4 year old class.  They'll still combine lunch and playground time so if any of her friends are two, she'll still see them.  But i've been SO happy with the school.  She brings home at least 2 adorable art projects a week (she goes 3 days a week), she does cooking (she made apple pie and pizza), she's learning her alphabet AND sign language (her teacher is also certified in special ed), the building is sparkling clean, her teachers and the receptionists and staff all greet her by name and with hugs, and most importantly, she LOVES it there.  I've had not a single complaint and i'd totally recommend the school to anyone. I know people are hesitant to be in the first class or give a new school a try, but i'm so glad we did.  (If you are in my area and sending your kid to school and you want the name/contact info, contact me and i'll share all the details).  We are definitely considering sending her there next year (also considering one other school we couldnt get her into this year and the public pre-K) and maybe next year i'll do 5 days a week or 3 full days (9-5 instead of the 9-1 she goes now).
I'm dying to get her school pictures back... she'll probably be making the awkward fake smile she does for photos... but i'm sure it'll be adorable anyway.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bigotry at Starbucks - Update 4

Today's New York Post, page 26.
(Click to see it larger).

New York Post, November 14, 2011, page 26.

Today articles hit major news sources where a man claims he was fired from T.G.I. Friday's restaurant chain for voting for Obama. His boss not only verbally harrassed him at work for his political views, but called hin ON voting day and told him he'd be sorry for voting. Not two weeks later he was out of a job on what he claims were false charges. The manager who bullied him in this way is named Tanya Edwards.

Why is this so important to me (besides the obvious WRONGness of the whole situation)???

Because remember Jeffrey from Starbucks - the guy we witnessed get fired for being gay??? Well, the manager who was the ring leader of that situation, was one and the same... Tanya Edwards.

Read about TGI Friday's incident here:

And if you're new/unfamiliar with the Starbucks situation, here's a recap: (from our visit back in June in Centereach, Long Island, NY)

So, originally Starbucks tried to claim that the incident wasn't what it seemed... and that Jeffrey had quit his job. Jeffrey and his lawyer expected Starbucks to fight his claim for unemployment, but surprisingly, Jeff had his unemployment hearing a month ago, and Starbucks elected not to even show up at the hearing, and time period for them to dispute the decision has passed, and Jeff has been awarded unemployment! Once that was awarded, Jeff and his lawyer filed Federal and State suits against both Starbucks and Tanya Edwards personally for wrongful termination and discrimination. And now that his financial security has been obtained, Jeff is ready to speak out about the situation, his outcome and his details. (Previously, we only had OUR point of view, as third party witnesses, but Jeff had to stay silent to protect his future case.)

The New York Post contacted Jeff yesterday before running their story about Friday's today to confirm that it was in fact the same manager, and it was the first he knew of the previous incident. (And this is the first time the name of the manager has been revealed to us).

Starbucks issued a statement claiming that we misunderstood... and i know many of the 1,000s of comments on our blog claimed that we were "looking" for discrimination or drama, or whatever. But with this new information in the public eye, i can't imagine Starbucks or anyone else claiming that we misheard or that it would be impossible that this woman would say the things she did.

People like Tanya Edwards do NOT belong working in the service industry and certainly should not be management. She used her position of power to bully employees whom she didn't like based on their race or orientation or politics. And this is NOT OK.

I'll be looking towards Starbucks (again) to see if they can make this right. As of yet, they have not contacted Jeff in any way, no apology has been issued, no financial benefits (besides state unemployment, just recently) has been given, and nothing to the public. Nor have WE been contacted by Starbucks and issued any sort of apology or admission of guilt for what we had to witness.

To this day, we haven't set foot in a Starbucks, but I would still like to see them make this right. I'd like to hear from them that this was all the fault of one disgusting woman, and i'd like to know that she's been fired and is unhirable in the future - which is what she threatened Jeffrey with.

We will update with more info as it becomes available... but the hurt and shock of this still hasnt gone away for us, and this new information just reopens the wound.

Update 3

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Vote for "best looking" cupcake in Cupcakepalooza 3.

See the photos below... then vote in the poll on the right!  (Click to see image larger).
Please share the link - help us gets as many votes as we can!!!

Comments welcome, and the voting will only be open for ONE HOUR!

*EDITED*  - votes are in.


Best Looking - SUSHI  (Kate)
Best Frosting - FRANKENBERRY  (Missy)
Fan Favorite - SAMOA  (Nadine)
Best In Show - APPLE PIE  (Missy)

Mmmmm.... photos of the whole event to come tomorrow...

Final Poll RESULTS!!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My Adventures in "Not So Extreme" Couponing (Part 1)

I got infected.  With the Extreme Couponing bug!!!  But when you consider all the TLC shows: 19 Kids and Counting, My Strange Addiction, NY Ink, Freaky Eating, I Didnt Know I Was Pregnant, Hoarding: Buried Alive, etc. - it seems like I picked a pretty good show to emulate.

So far, i'm not off to the greatest start, and i'm certainly not extreme... but last Friday we saved about 34% off our grocery order... almost $75 saved... and i didn't buy any stuff that I didn't want or wouldn't normally buy. (I saw one woman on the show who had over 30,000 diapers or something... and she wasn't married and had no kids.)

I think what I really need is a mentor.  Any coupon-nuts out there want to mentor me (especially someone from Long Island, so we have the same stores)???  My biggest problem so far, is finding the coupons!  (P.S.  Any readers that throw away new newspaper coupon inserts and would like to send them my way, i'd appreciate it, contact me for my address!)

So i made minor investments to start: and definitely "paid" us back already in coupons.  My printer never has ink, so i had to buy a black cartridge for about $20.  (And i finished it already! I need to go get a new one).  And we bought a small (about 6x8") accordion folder with 26 pockets, a clasp, and a handle, so we can bring it shopping - it was on sale for about $8.  And so far, we've bought one Newsday for about $3, but we think we're gonna get Sunday delivery, it's a lot cheaper.  As you can see from last week's receipts (below) we definitely made that back.

So i get the basic mathematical principal behind it is stacking.  Using a store coupon or store sale... with a manufacturer's coupon (in a store that doubles, ideally) to greatly discount the item.  Just using a coupon on a retail-priced item won't show much savings.  This week, we stacked Yoplait yougurts.  They are normally $1 each. But sale price was 10/$6.  And i had a coupon (printed from online) for $1 off 10... and King Kullen doubles, so we got 10 for $4.  A savings of 60%.  And we are a household that eats/likes yogurt anyway.  So we bought 30!  :)  But they dont expire for a month... and there are three of us eating them, so not unreasonable.  I had a $1 off Cracker Barrell cheese coupon... but they are $6.  Not that great.  But this week they went on sale buy one get one free... and the coupon doubled... so we got 2 for $4.  (So we bought 4 total, they don't expire for months.)  That is another 66% savings.

But here is where i'm running into problems:

1.  Building my coupon stockpile.  So far, and Red Plum are the only main sources i've found that are legit.  And... going to companies individual webpages (so far Pillsbury, Campbell's and Yoplait have had good ones on their sites).  But a lot of sites seem to be fishing scams... they ask for a bunch of info, then want me to take surveys... then try to sell me something. So if anyone can help me out and point me in the direction of good sites to find real, legit coupons let me know.  So far we are printing off of one computer, but in theory, i could use/borrow 3 computers total to print with.  (Most sites limit printing 2 per computer, per coupon.)  Newsday has an insert, but it's kinda crappy.  I dont want to spend a ton of $ on buying newspapers each week... though I suppose i would if i found it ACTUALLY paid off.

2.  Expiration Dates:  it seems all the soupons i print online expire 1 month from when i print it.  And many (not all) of the newspaper ones expire in a week!  So how does one stockpile coupons if they expire so quickly?  Where do people get ones with long expiration dates?

3.  Store choices.  I live really far away from strip-mall civilization... which i like, don't get me wrong.  That's one of the major appeals of living here: i like my nature, farms, deer, beaches, darkness, and quiet.  But, when it comes to couponing, it sucks.  Locally we have two family owned IGAs and a Waldbaums.  None of them double.  IGA is expensive... but Waldbaums has its virtues... just no coupon doubling.  The next closest thing is King Kullen, which is about 15 miles away from our house (but 30-40 mph roads the whole way, so almost half hour away).  They DO double (with restrictions) so they are our store of choice.  Beyond that, the next big chain store i think is Stop N Shop (my favorite store to shop in), but it's at least 30 miles away and they don't double either.  If there are small stores anywhere in between that DO double, i don't know about them or where they are.  So i know on the show, they shop at different stores on the same day - wherever the items are on sale that they have coupons for, they go there.  But, we lack variety, and so we have to WAIT for the items to go on sale in our one store.  Maybe in other regions, many stores double to compete, but not here.

4.  Cost of Living Differences.  I live in The Hamptons, one of the most expensive areas in the country.  Hell, ALL of New York metro area is expensive.  Cost of living here is very different than say down south or in the midwest.  But coupons are the same.  So on the show, peanut butter may be priced at $1.89 and your $1 off coupon gets it for you for free.  But here, i wouldn't find the same item for less than $3.  Elsewhere you may pay $800 rent for a 4 bedroom house, here that'll get you a bedroom sublet in a house.  More like $2,000+ for the same house.  And in NYC you'll get a one bedroom for $2,000... if you're lucky.  Elsewhere the same one bedroom might cost you $350.  And it's no different with groceries.  It is overpriced here.  Everything is.  Even things you would think might be standard (like McDonald's) isn't.  Add about 40% to the prices of the midwest/south and maybe you'll get our prices.  So the coupons dont have as much value here.

All that being said, i guess it's going to be a lot of luck too.  Printing/clipping what i can find, then hoping it goes on sale at my 1 store within the month that the coupon is good.  And practice!  But we saved about $35 two weeks ago and $72 this last week, which is certainly better than nothing.  We have enough soup, cheese, and yogurt to last a month, which are things we can cross off our list for the next couple weeks, and that's savings going forward too.

I don't actually expect to get my groceries for free like these people on TV.  I will not be jumping in dumpsters for circulars.  And i will not be paying money for things i don't need (i dont care if Aleve is on sale for 25 cents... i dont USE Aleve, so i won't be pouring 40 boxes into my shopping cart like they do on TV.  If a coupon can make it free, i'll buy a few and donate it or give it to a friend that can use it, but no hoarding stockpiles of things we won't use over here.)  But for every dollar we can save, it can be $1 more put towards debts, experiences for Lily, or family vacations.  So i figure it IS worth my time and effort.

Pointers/tips welcome! Coupon donations welcome too!

And if YOU "extreme" coupon, i'd love to read your blog or hear about your experiences... link me!

I'll update about this again in the future... see if i can get better at it!

This is Friday's shopping receipt, showing our discounts.  We had to check out seperately because you can only double five $1 coupons, and you can only use two identical coupons, so Missy and i checked out twice so we could double seven $1 coupons. (But they'll double unlimited 99 cent or lower coupons. Neat, right??)

What My Life Needs More Of...

I've known my "oldest" friend since we were 9.  We met at summer camp and spent 8 weeks as bunk mates from age 9-16.  Of all my camp friends, she was the only one that lived in my county, which also meant she was the one that my mom was willing to drive me to visit!  When we got our own licenses/cars, we got to be the "out of town mysterious girl" at each others' friends' keg parties.  She went to college in Pennsylvania, i went in Manhattan.  I think I only visited her in East Bumblefuck once, but she visited me a few times.  After college she stayed in PA for a few years... then she came back to New Jersey.  That time overlapped when i lived in Hoboken (about 15 minutes with no traffic, which was never, away from where she lived), which was awesome, but we still didnt see each other enough.  Then i moved to Long Island in 2007, which everyone from the NYC area knows, is no different than living in China.  People from the city & the entire rest of the continental USA are all like "you live in NY, let's hang out... oh wait, you said Long Island... that's like 2 bridges/tunnels away... i can't cross two rivers, i might as well swim across an entire ocean" (everyone thinks this... even my parents).  So it seems like distance has kept us apart for most of our lives.  But you know what is awesome?  She's the kind of friend that you can not see for a year... and when you do, it's like no time has passed and it doesnt even matter, things just pick up where they left off.  Another sucky thing for us... is that I hate the phone.  I mean, i really hate the phone.  I talk on the phone on average 10 minutes a week... and 5 of those minutes are usually individual phone calls saying "i'll be there to pick you/Lily up in 5 minutes."  But she, she hates the internet and more often than not has her Facebook disabled, and deleted her blog & Twitter.
Put all of this together... and there just isnt enough Linda in my life.
So this post is for you.
One time, we were about 14 or so, and i was visiting at her house.  We went for a walk - where or why, i don't remember.  But I do remember a dog... a huge black, mean one... a Doberman perhaps, charging out of a driveway at us, and we took one look at each other and Ran!  The unfair part was, her legs are about 6 inches longer than mine, and she was a high school athlete (and i walked the "mile run" in gym class).  She took off and was about 5 houses ahead of me.  She probably looked back, but there was no way I could catch up.  Remember that old joke about not being able to outrun a bear, and the guy says, "i dont need to outrun the bear, i just need to outrun you!"  Well, there we were.  And then there was a guy in his driveway working on (maybe washing?) his truck, and in some adrenaline powered superhero move, i leaped onto his truck in a single jump and stood there trembling on his roof.  And he said "hi, there."  Certainly one of my most hilarious AND horrifying stories about dogs of my life.
As a kid, Linda was obsessed with two things.  Madonna and mooning people.  For some reason, it was her life's mission to make sure every last human saw her ass.  This made for awesome van/bus rides at summer camp.  Though she may deny it, i think, sadly, she's outgrown this.
On one camp trip, we must have been about 15 years old, and we went to Boston, or Montreal, or some city north of us.  We stayed in a campground outside the city, and this trip was different than most, because we went with the boys group our age.  Linda and i snuck out of our tent for a little late night visit (one more teenage obsession of hers... boys) and as we were sneaking around with our flashlight, we got caught by the trip leader.  We shone our flashlight on him in an "oh shit" moment... and instead of yelling at us for sneaking out after dark, he started shouting at us "you RUINED my night vision."  To this day, i still have no idea what the fuck he was talking about.  Your eyes will adjust, chill out.  But whenever anyone shines a light in my eyes, i think "you've ruined my night vision" then laugh alone like a weirdo, and think of Linda.
When we asked Linda to be Lilian's Godmother, she cried.  And i'm pretty sure she takes this shit seriously, she IS Italian.  I think she'd even leave a decapitated horse's head in someone's bed for Lily.
When i got married, i asked the 4 women most important to me in my life (besides my soon-to-be-wife) to give me my something Old, New, Borrowed, and Blue. My grandma gave me a gold ring (we she said was a wedding ring, something old), my mom gave me the garter she wore at her wedding (it had a blue bow), one of my besties, Jaime, sent me haircombs to wear (new), and Linda lent me her lucky pendant (which was on a safety pin, and i wore pinned to my bra.)  None of those four people could be there with us that day (our friends Christiaan and Wick were our witnesses), but they all were a part of my wedding.
On another camp trip to Boston (or maybe it was the same one), Linda bought a frog stuffed animal.  (I have no idea why) But i have a photo of her (somewhere) hanging out a shop door, in a brownstone building (probably Newbury Street), waving this giant green frog over her head.  She took the frog to college, and he became one of those items that you hold on to move after move.  In 2002 (i was 22), when i had a horrible car accident, after i was medi-jetted back from Florida to NY, she came to visit me at the rehab hospital (she still lived in PA) and she brought me this same frog to keep me company.
My first and only time white water rafting/canoeing was with Linda.  On the Delaware river somewhere in PA.  We were canoe partners... and on the first day, we got our canoe wedged between 3 rocks in a rapid, and had to get out to pull it free.  It was disastrous.  The next day i broke my toes rafting... that sucked too.  I never went again.
Below are an assortment of photos of us from various years.  I'm typing this on my phone at work, so later i'll include more photos (and caption them properly), but for now... here they are.
Last year (Sept 8, 2010) for my 31st birthday, Linda put this poem in her blog for me.  It ranks in one of the best presents i ever got from a friend:  (and BOO to Linda for deleting her blog, you should bring it back, but Yay to me for copying and saving this before you did.)
 An Online Diary of Loo Loo's Mondo
 Wednesday, September 8, 2010
 happy bday, my summer camp sister
 as delicate as i had always assumed she was
 she accepted me from the start
 my age 8 tomboy self
 her artsy and magical ways
 she always wrote notes
 and dotted her "i"'s with a heart
 i always knew
 that she was brilliant
 she liked me
 despite the fact that
 i used to run around
 (almost always)
 with none of my clothes on
 screaming for attention
 farting and burping
 on command for show
 as dainty as i had assumed she was
 she still got a kick
 out of the fact that
 i peed in some girl's shampoo bottle
 the girl was a b*tch
 and totally deserved
 a head massage with urine
 as young as we were
 i always knew that i'd know her forever
 she stood by my side
 when i spit in some kid's face
 for the lies that he told
 and she was the only one
 who believed my truth
 as reserved as i always thought she was
 she didn't flinch when i told her
 about my life
 things that are BIG news when you're 14
 and tattoos
 i always knew that she was special
 different, unique
 i always would hope that i'd have her forever
 no matter our age, our school, our town
 when i cleaned out my closet
 i found a college paper
 that i had written about
 a photo of us
 taken one night in new york city
 she makes it easy to feel inspired
 she's easy to admire
 she's the bird on the wire
 that moves over
 for the rest of her
 feathered friends to arrive
 my instinct is to protect her
 that will never change
 even though she's the stronger one
 in my mind's eye
 she's soft like a watercolor painting
 that hasn't had
 a chance to dry
 i kept every letter she ever sent me
 from nyc to london, cali, nj
 i kept every mix tape
 used book and burnt cd's too
 she's private
 i can't say much else
 but i can tell you this-
 she is love
 Posted by Loo Loo at 12:54 PM

So this is a big Thank You to Linda for being in my life for the past 23 years (shit, are we seriously that old?).  For always understanding me.  For always telling me what I want to hear (sometimes).  For never failing to make me laugh.  And for always having my back.  I always said you were the sister i never had, and you still are...

Lilian and her godparents at her 2nd birthday party.

Linda & Dana, house party in Hoboken 7/25/2003

Summer 2010

Summer Camp 1992

3 of my favorite friends in one photo!

St Patrick's Day 2010.

A very romantic Valentine's Day  2010

1997  Freshman year of College

Halloween 2011

Here comes another photo heavy post... but I have lots of photos to share from Halloween!
I posted last week about the adorable Halloween cupcakes and cookies we made as gifts, and here is all the rest of the stuff we did to celebrate this year!

This was a really cool year, Lilian was 3 years old (+ 2 months) and really "got" it this year.  She was excited to do all the Halloween related things, and got into the concept of "spooky".  We even let her choose her own costume (2008 she was a pumpkin, 2009 she was a robot/ladybug - two costumes, not combines, 2010 she was Nemo) and this year she at first asked to be a horse (she is OBSESSED with horses), but agreed to be a cowgirl... ON a horse, which was a lot easier for her mommies to make/get.  In the weeks leading up to Halloween, we went pumpkin picking and I did a Halloween portrait shoot of her at the farm, we painted wooden pumpkins, we baked, we decorated the front of our house with lights & spider webs, and we carved pumpkins.  And on the day of Halloween, her pre-school had a party that parents could attend, and then we took her Trick-or-Treating.  The village we live in does Trick-or-Treating in town, and all the shops give out candy.  There are plenty of crossing guards and kids everywhere.  Definitely a safer alternative to knocking on strangers doors in pitch dark neighborhoods (where we live there are no street lights, and most people don't do house lights because of light pollution, so it's DARK.)

After what was pretty much a month long celebration in our house, I felt like Lily totally got the Halloween experience this year!

And now some photos...  (CLICK on any of the photos to see it larger).

Halloween Painting Projects:

Lilian about to start her masterpiece.  10/16/2011

Paints you see in the background, 2/$1 at Michael's!  Wooden pumpkin $2.

A totally fun way to spend the afternoon, and we spend about $10 on them all.

Lilian's two finished projects.

Missy's, Lily's, mine from left to right.  Yay!
Lilian's Halloween Portraits, 2011.

Portraits (on our front porch)  10/22/2011

My friend Stephanie made this awesome dress.  Info:

That's me!  I'm the one that's not 3.

And here's Lily with Missy!  Being silly as usual.

Portraits at Balsams Farm in Amagansett, NY

Lollipops made a good bribe to get her to sit still for portraits!
We did our pumpkin carving with friends this year, and it was one of the most fun nights of the year!   10/23/2011

Mia (age 5 or 6) and Lily getting the guts out of the pumpkin!

Me again, gutting my pumpkin.

Missy, slow and steady wins the race!  This pumpkin will soon be epic.

The kids took off by this point, and left us to carve.

Are these the coolest pumpkins or what? I carved the owl (2nd from left) and Missy carved the Frankenberry (center), friends Emily, Mat, and Jenn carved the other three.  It was our first time carving, and I was MAJORLY impressed!
 Visit this post to see all the Halloween baked goods we made the night before Halloween.

And finally, the photos from actual Halloween, which fell on a Monday this year.  10/31/2011

My little cowgirl.
 By the way, we didn't get that hobby-horse for Halloween, she's had it for a year or so, a gift from her grandfather.  The cutest part about it, is his name.  She named him "Popcorn" which is her favorite junk food.  How cute is that?

Pre-school party. When we arrived, she was eating popcorn with a fork.  Weirdo.

Bouncy castle fun.

Playing trains with Baby Yoda.

This is the first time I got to witness lunch time at her school... and I thought it was SO adorable!

I wonder if she does this every day with her apples.

So cute, I couldn't stop taking photos!

One more photo in her costume - she takes a nap after school, and I was worried she wouldn't want to put it on again for Trick-or-Treating!
I love her face in this one... and she looks a lot like me at her age in this shot.

She and MommyMissy playing "I'm gonna get more candy than you"...

Cute vest, right?  We got it on etsy!

Trick-or-Treating in town.  No, Mommy (me) did NOT wear a costume this year.

Lily said "Trick or Treat" and "thank you" to everyone.  She's so polite!

I found Waldo!

Lily and her friend, V.

This "alley" in town was made all spooky... it was really cool.

This werewolf's bowl had a mechanical hand that grabbed yours... and it scared Lily to near death!  You can see her screaming as she jumped back a mile!  She then said "let's get out of this spooky place."

So, Halloween 2011 was a total success!  I'm already looking forward to next year.  Especially the pumpkin carving, that was new for me this year, and I can't WAIT for next year's!
Related Posts with Thumbnails